All Speculation is Equally Speculative by Catherine Conner

Along with millions of other listeners, I just finished listening to the #1 rated Serial podcast for the last twelve weeks. Sarah Koenig narrates her year long journey exploring whether a 1999 murder was committed by the victim’s 17 year old boyfriend who was convicted or if he is innocent. In each week, more information is revealed, some bolstering the conviction and some leading in the direction that he was framed.

My two daughters have also been listening and now my husband is binge listening. We have discussed who we think did the murder and what information we are focusing on. Our opinions changed from week to week as we learned new information and the craving increased for the next episode to learn more to fill in the picture. It was like working on a jigsaw puzzle and the satisfaction you feel when you find missing pieces.

In the last episode, Sarah Koenig said something that has stuck with me, “all speculation is equally speculative.” When applied to my own speculations other than about Serial, my immediate internal reaction was “well, yes for many people that is true, but my speculations are based on carefully weighing what I have learned so they are really closer to the truth than speculation.”

That is what often happens in my office and what I love about my work. People in conflict come in and each has his or her story about what has happened in the conflict and feel quite strongly that their speculation is the truth. They tell me their stories and I also create a speculative story about them and their conflict. And then we get to explore together what has happened and what it means for their future. Over time, the stories may change as we learn more and fill in the pieces of the puzzle. When the parties, other professionals and I are able to be more open minded and have an “all speculation is equally speculative” attitude, it’s easier to find a path out of the conflict. We may not ever have exactly the same final version of the story of the conflict, but we don’t have to hold so tightly to our own speculative stories. I love listening to stories, I like challenging myself to stay curious, and I find great satisfaction helping people to work through conflict. That is why I love my work.

If you are interested in listening to the Serial podcast, you can download the episodes at serialpodcast.org. Make sure you have plenty of time available because it’s like a good book that you stay up reading until 3 am to finish.